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Frederick Abrams

The Underground Cathedral

Frederick Abrams

The Underground Cathedral

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© 2013 Frederick Abrams, The Underground Cathedral

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MIND THE GAP

Q. Can you talk about “Mind the Gap?”

A. Between the various musical episodes of the film there are short vignettes, such as the trains passing through the countryside, but also sometimes there are introductory parts to each segment of the film. In one you see a simple sign of the London Tube which says “Underground.” It is also a single photograph that I made into an animation. It appears to pulsate. It grows larger and larger, then recedes and again enlarges.

This repeats many times and there’s a synchronized thumping sound which is very much like a heartbeat. As this repetition continues, other superimposed images appear and then recede as do different sounds from the London underground. At the bottom of the post a small yellow sign says, “RVP.” I don’t know what this means, but as this scene comes to its end the sign stops moving and the word in the center of the circle, “Underground,” changes to “Safe Haven.” Likewise little sign below on the post that says, “RVP,” changes to “RIP,” of course, meaning, “Rest In Peace.”

“Safe Haven” was the name given to the zones during the war in Bosnia where the United Nations workers were considered safe from attack.

There are also scenes, that I have colorized to appear to be from very old film footage, of one of the original steam engine locomotive trains that ran in the London Tube, when it first operated during a week-long celebration of its 150th anniversary, which occurred in 2013. I was invited to give a talk at a conference commemorating what is the oldest underground system in the world.

“Mind the Gap” starts with a graphic that is used by “The Hells Angels,” a volunteer protection force in London and New York. They go on the trains asking for spare change, which you hear at the beginning of “About to Depart.”

Early in “Mind the Gap” you see their logo, which I made to look painterly. Then you see the name of one of the stations in London, “Angel.” This leads into an “art gallery” of still images about women floating through space in a burning tunnel in the underground. The soundtrack is a percussive accompaniment to the sounds of trains entering and leaving a London Tube station. The film, in fact, is a gallery of artworks. There are many still images shown in different ways. This is one of them as these are animated still images.

Q. I just think of fire in “Mind the Gap,” fire as time and time as fire.

A. Fire is a very strange subject and concept in and of itself and this is also connected to light. It’s fascinating to me how we are so attracted to fire. It’s a source of life as well as its destruction. It’s again a subject which can be beautiful as well as frightening. Throughout the film this theme reemerges. There’s the burned opera house in Barcelona. “Mind the Gap” begins with an image of a platform of the London Tube with a sign which says, “Way Out.” and an arrow pointing horizontally.

Simultaneously there is an announcement which says that there is a fire investigation in the underground and that one of the nearby stations is closed. There had actually been some serious fires in the London underground, so there is a big fear of this there. Anytime someone lights a cigarette they have a fire investigation. I suppose that fire, like war, and fire in nature, in fact, is some kind of a cleansing. Everything is cleared away and then there’s room to rebuild again. This occurs again in “Samoobsługa,” which I will get to later, but it’s very much about a story of a church that had been destroyed by fire and rebuilt over time.

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